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European Countries Leave U.S. Trailing in Race for Universal Broadband

LONDON, March 11, 2010 – European countries are adopting measures to reach 100 percent broadband penetration – and they’re going to reach that goal well before the United States.

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LONDON, March 11, 2010 – European countries are adopting measures to reach 100 percent broadband penetration – and they’re going to reach that goal well before the United States.

This is partly because European regions tend to be more densely populated, often with shorter distances to their remote communities. Some have fewer topographic challenges than others, making it easier to bring broadband to all homes.

However, in many cases Europeans are benefiting from firm commitments from local and central governments that began as many as 10 years ago.

Such commitment led Finland to become the first European country to legislate for universal broadband in October 2009, requiring telecommunications firms to provide residents with access at 1 megabit or more by July 2010.

By December 2010, each region will have a telecom firm subject to a Universal Service Order, as defined by the European Union in its i2010 strategy to heal the digital divide among its member states. Others are following Finland’s move. Austria set a target of 25 mbps for its residents by 2013, aiming to achieve this through legislation stimulating wholesale provision and cooperative ventures between operators.

Universal provision is certainly far easier for some countries to provide than others. Finland was well placed since 96 percent of its people were already within reach of broadband by 2005.

Some, including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, now have virtually 100 percent coverage anyway, compared with 98.5 percent in France, 95 percent in Germany, and just 82 percent in the United States, according to a report (pdf) from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

This same report also highlighted the problems comparing broadband coverage in different countries given the variety of service types and definitions. The report defined broadband as being 500 kbps or faster downstream, but that itself looks like an outdated measure given that it’s woefully inadequate for delivering a growing number of services such as high-definition television.

For most countries, the challenge for universal broadband remains the last mile in remote areas, or might be called the “last 10 percent”, with various measures being adopted.

Finland is leveraging its world-class expertise in wireless, having invested in High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) technology to cover most of the country by providing up to 21 mbps downstream. This forms part of its highly ambitious plan to step up universal broadband to 100 mbps by 2015.

The United Kingdom also aims to exploit its mobile network, with the emphasis on filling in the gaps to reach the 15 percent of households incapable of receiving 2 mbps or more over their digital subscriber line connections. The United Kingdom also highlights the problem of definition. The OECD says the United Kingdom has 100 percent broadband coverage, but many of its more remotely located citizens would disagree as they struggle to gain access even at 500 kbps.

By contrast, South Korea already provides most of its population with 100 mbps over its fiber-dense networks. This is precisely the FCC’s plan for 100 million homes within the United States, but not until 2020.

Meanwhile, some countries and regions are leaning more heavily on their existing cable TV networks to fill out top-end broadband within populated areas, now that an international telecommunications standard known as the DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem standard supports downstream speeds up to 100 Mbps with the aid of channel bonding. Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification, or DOCSIS, allows the addition of high-speed data transfer to a cable TV system.

Cable networks accounted for about 38 percent of the Netherlands’s 5.996 million broadband connections by Sept. 30, 2000 and was gaining ground over DSL, according to the Dutch telecom journal Telecompaper.

The importance of cable networks for broadband competition has been reflected in some countries by the regulator including them in unbundling programs. Danish telecom regulator National IT and Telecom Agency has ordered the operator TDC to open both its copper and cable networks to other broadband providers.

This Danish move highlights a possible deficiency in the U.S. plan to stimulate competition and price competitiveness. While Denmark, in common with many European countries, has promoted competition between multiple service providers, the FCC’s focus has been more on creating alternative broadband modes of delivery, such as DSL and cable. The trouble with this is that the same operator may provide both, leaving little incentive to price competitively.

Philip Hunter is a London based technology reporter specialising in broadband platforms and their use to access high speed services and digital entertainment. He has written extensively for European publications about emerging broadband services and the issues surrounding deployment and access for over 10 years, with a technical background in ICT systems development and testing.

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Broadband Data

Many Data Points Required for Broadband Planning, Event Hears

An assortment of data will be useful in all phases of the broadband planning process.

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Photo of Kristin Lardy of CORI

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2023 – Providers must invest in data collection for physical location, existing network infrastructure, and community needs and interests, advised the Center on Rural Innovation at a panel discussion Thursday.  

Physical location data includes a map of all buildings, identification of which buildings are eligible for or need broadband service, what services are provided, and fiber drop distances. Providers will need this information to understand how to utilize federal investment money from the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program, which award amounts are set to be announced later this month. 

Not only will providers need information on poles, towers, hubs, and fiber infrastructure ownership but they will also need insight on community needs and interests, said presenters. These include barriers to access and customer interest in a new internet provider. 

This assortment of data will be useful in all phases of the planning process, said Kirstin Lardy, broadband consultant at CORI, such as the market analysis phase for penetration assumptions, network design for projected costs, and financial modeling for forecast of costs and revenues.  

Data can be collected from federal resources like the Federal Communication Commission’s national broadband and funding map, which can be used to determine what areas are covered by federal subsidy and where communities should focus their efforts.  

Further data is also available at the municipal level which often hosts information about location of structures, types of structures, vacant lots, addresses, pole data, power distribution paths and rights of way.  

Engaging with community anchor institutions is essential to building comprehensive and useful data sets, added Kristen Corra, policy counsel at the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition. She urged providers to work with localities to gather information. 

States may also collect data directly from providers and users through speed tests, surveys, and censuses. 

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Broadband Data

Ookla Has Verizon as Fastest Q1 Fixed Provider, T-Mobile Takes Top Spot for Mobile

T-Mobile was also named the most consistent mobile operator and topped 5G download speeds.

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Image of Speedtest from May 2017 by Daniel Aleksandersen used with permission

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2022 – A market report released Friday by performance metrics web service Ookla named Verizon the fastest fixed broadband provider in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2022, and T-Mobile as the fastest mobile operator during the same period.

Verizon had a median download speed of 184.36 Mbps, edging out Comcast Xfinity’s speed of 179.12 Mbps. T-Mobile’s median mobile speed was 117.83 Mbps.

Verizon had the lowest latency of all providers, according to Ookla, well ahead of Xfinity’s fourth place ranking, yet sat at third for consistency behind both Xfinity and Spectrum.

T-Mobile was also the most consistent mobile operator during the first quarter, achieving an Ookla consistency score of 88.3 percent, which along with median download speed represented an increase from the fourth quarter of 2021.

The company also achieved the fastest median 5G download speed, coming in at 191.12 Mbps.

Verizon also notably increased its 5G download speed from its Q4 metric, attributed in part to the turning on of new C-band spectrum in January following deployment delays and protest from airlines. For mobile speeds, it stood in second behind T-Mobile, bumping AT&T to a standing of third. These rankings were the same for mobile measures of latency and consistency.

Yet on 5G availability, AT&T remains ahead of Verizon.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra came in as the fastest popular device in the country, running at 116.33 Mbps.

Ookla is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.

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FCC’s Rosenworcel: Broadband Nutrition Labels Will Create New Generation of Informed Buyers

The FCC hopes companies will make it easier for consumers to choose a broadband plan that fits their needs.

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Photo of Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at the Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband nutrition labels will usher in a new era where buyers have simple information about what they’re buying, agency Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said Friday.

Consumers should know what they’re signing up for when they spend hundreds “or even thousands” of dollars per year for internet service. She was speaking at Friday’s commission hearing on its so-called broadband nutrition label initiative.

The hearing comes on top of a public comment period on the initiative. Many providers are pushing for more flexible regulations on compliance.

When consumers choose a broadband provider for their household, Rosenworcel said may people make decisions with “sometimes incomplete and inaccurate information.”

“The problem for broadband consumers isn’t a total lack of information, but there’s loads of fine print,” Rosenworcel said. “It can be difficult to know exactly what we are paying for and these disclosures are not consistent from carrier to carrier,” which makes comparing prices and services harder and more time-consuming for consumers.

The comments built on other recent speeches by Rosenworcel promoting the initiative, encouraging state attorneys general’s ability to enforce companies’ commitments through their states’ consumer protection statutes.

The FCC began a plan in 2015 for broadband labels that was voluntary. The new initiative directed by last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes this effort mandatory for broadband providers.

Matt Sayre, managing director of cross sector economic development firm Onward Eugene, said residents in rural Oregon would benefit from simple information when considering broadband providers. During a time where dial-up and satellite-based offerings were primarily available, Sayre said his neighbors “never used terms like latency or packet loss.”

“These are important aspects of good internet service, but not easily understood by most people,” Sayre said. “Citizens understood they needed better service but were uncertain about what tier of service they needed. This is where broadband labels can be very helpful.”

The hearing was the agency’s first on the initiative.

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